Why Gmail launch was sensational ?

Gmail was launched on 1st April 2004 to a limited number of people and it was invitation only. Many people thought it as April Fool’s joke. Time says Gmail launch was beginning of the modern era of the web.Have you ever thought what it was like when Gmail was started?

  • First milestone that Gmail set was storage limit. During those days Hotmail and Yahoo mail were primary internet email providers. In those days these providers have email quota of 2 MB to 5 MB. People used to delete their message just to keep their mail box under limit. People used to delete their email if it consist of attachments just to keep their mailbox size under limit. Google gave 1 GB of storage per email account. That was crazy idea that time.Google came up with idea to keep all your message intact.
  • Second thing that Gmail differentiated from other competitors was conversational view of email messages. Messages were arranged with subject in one thread. It gave better view of relevant messages.
  • Use of AJAX was a big improvement from conventional web email providers. AJAX allowed to load new emails without reloading the page. Before Gmail Hotmail or Yahoo had to load complete page for each user interaction. If you are not from tech world, AJAX stands for asynchronous JavaScript and XML. With Ajax, web applications can send data to and retrieve from a server asynchronously (in the background) without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page.
  • Gmail had community driven spam detection and Gmail used to have less spam and no pop-up ad.
  • Contextual advertising – Gmail came up with idea of displaying contextual advertising besides emails. Gmail program scans email messages and display advertisement related to keywords in email. It created huge noise from some privacy advocates. They said people who send email to Gmail users aren’t aware of the fact that someone [machine] would read their message to display contextual ads. Google came up with explanation that all email providers scans email for spam and virus so there is nothing new in scanning emails for contextual advertisement.They also clarified that no human being reads these email only machines [computers] do that. 
  • POP Support – POP stands for Post office Protocol, using POP3 protocol desktop email clients can download email from remote server.Gmail supported POP3 protocol from day 1,while their competitor didn’t provide it for free, because they were afraid that if they allow POP support people will desert their web version email support. Google was so confident about their web version that they supported POP from day 1.
  • Improved Search – Gmail provided ability to search your mailbox using keywords / operands  at lightning speed relative to other mail clients.
  • Invitation only launch – Gmail was invitation only when it started and after a few weeks Gmail gave their existing users invitations so that they could invite their family or friends.During those days it created so much buzz that people were paying even 60 USD to get an invite. Some people started selling those invites on Ebay. Geek.com has a story about these invites being sold on Ebay.

All in all launch of Gmail was a new era of internet world. When you had first Gmail account? Did you have Yahoo or Hotmail account before that?